For me, writing a restaurant review always poses three main issues. A: I run a food business so it feels a bit wrong to criticise and potentially sycophantic to enthuse – B: It is hard not to come across as a middle class knob, words such as delish, nom-nom, yummy, scrum are just way too irksome and C: I have a habit of killing all my phones, 3 in the past 8 months, and as you need a few snaps and I don’t own a camera this expensive habit is not perfect. However I do like eating and always have an opinion, I also have a new phone, I will not be too prissy and this place deserves lots of praise.
Today a chance call from my sister offered us a great chance to try Little Fish Market since its transformation from fishmongers to restaurant some weeks ago. I had no intention of writing this thus it is from memory that I recall the dishes but they will stay in my head for some time to come.
The owning chef Duncan Ray (with a CV that includes the Fat Duck and Pennyhill Park) is a really friendly fella. He is working alongside a front of house man (sorry, didn’t ask his name) and together they have nailed it. The decor of the space is plain and simple, cool and calm, set in a residential street with windows on both sides. The food clearly has a massive fish focus though there is more than a nod to the meat.
The cooking – is just excellent. Well sourced ingredients are important to Duncan which is illustrated in all the food we shared. We started with a fish soup with brown shrimps, hake and a crouton with a chunky spoonful of rouille. This fresh tasting broth was packed with herbs and sweet juicy fish and is all about taste and produce.
The chicken terrine was sublime. A layered affair of moist chicken with slices of fresh figs, marinated black grapes and I think shitake mushroom. (Next time I shall ask questions and take notes!). The flavours so clean and simple, a textual sexual eating experience.
To the mains; Fish and chips with mushy peas; A slice of bang-on flaky hake with crisp skin and even crispier bacon slithers, I liked the sliced rather than batons of bacon which was rendered of its fat and almost dehydrated which I loved. Bacon and peas of course go great together, the salty meat balancing a perfectly smooth sweet pea puree with some whole peas too and a handful of peashoots . A generous bowl of chips chunky, well salted. Perfect.
Seabass with fennel and pink grapefruit with a crab ravioli. Was exactly as it said. The fennel cooked yet retaining a crisp texture with the sweet crisp skinned fish and sour pink grapefruit making for the perfect bed for a single pasta pillow with a deep and salty crab filling. Again just delicious.
Puddings….oh good bloody God. A chocolate plate of rich ganache disks sitting on top of a malted chocolate crumb with a salted caramel ice cream, buttery salted butterscotch caramel sauce and a cripy chocolate disk. Christ on fire……amazing.
I am a real fan of rhubarb as any of you who come to my supper club at this time of year will know. Last night I did a rose a rhubarb fool which went down well…….At Little Fish a cheesecake in the old fashioned way, dense texture with a biscuit base, the richness offset with a creme fraiche ice cream, a rhubarb sorbet and a ribbon of the fruit. Tart, sweet, light, rich, again all balanced and perfect.
We also had a couple of glasses of fecking great wines. The ‘guys’ have just chosen wines and are putting together a list; they have been granted a licence so although I did not see their selection, I am pretty convinced the wines will be as well thought out as the food. Duncans cooking style is not about foam, froth and billowing smoke it is about starting with fantastic produce and with a light, highly trained hand turning out plates of perfectly cooked food. Each dish we ate was considered and balanced, salty juxtaposed with sweet, and soft measured by texture. Starters and puds come in at around £6 with mains between £12 – 18. They do a cheaper set lunch which I did not notice until my departure so I can not actually say what it comprises. Whatever, I really suggest you book soon as they only have 20 covers. Because I am in culinary love……. it might well be just 19.
Oh and in shameless self promotion; here is my own rhubarb fool!
The Little Fish Market – 10 Upper Market Street Hove – 01273 722213